JOHN MARY ODOY: Buganda Land System is accommodative: respect land laws and traditions

Mzee John Mary is a political and social commentator (PHOTO /Courtesy)

Buganda is a Kingdom that has been in existence for centuries. It has a strong culture and set of traditional systems it believes in, alongside its fertile lands and fresh waters one would call it a self-contained state.

In Buganda, the ownership and authority over land was held in trust by the institution of the Kabaka and all was well with their land laws.

Currently, Mailo Tenure is one of the land tenure systems, which is mainly in Buganda region. For well-intentioned people, the system in Buganda is working well.

Several times some leaders of this country have raised concern over the land ownership system in Buganda and I keep wondering why this is so. My reflections point to the individualistic and selfish persons who have made land grabbing part of their lives. Anyone can acquire land in Buganda and live on it comfortably. This is not common in other parts of the country.

I attempted to buy land in a certain part of this country about 10 years ago but I was openly told that since I was not a son of the soil (not belonging to that tribe), I had no privilege of owning land in that area regardless of the amount of money I was willing to offer. This is not in Buganda. I have lived in Buganda for more than two thirds of my life under no threat or disturbance on the land I acquired. It is therefore, in my view, a misconception to think that the land system in Buganda is bad and anti-developmental. If it were so, I believe the current physical and infrastructural developments would not be in existence.

Tampering with the land system in Buganda currently and with unclear reasons or intentions could be a grave mistake. Buganda has had to accept and accommodate several distortions in their life system. It has been forced to bend some of its norms, values and systems in order to accommodate other people. This should not be taken for granted. What should be known is that with or without other settlers Buganda can and will still exist. The good gesture of Buganda accepting to live with people from other parts of the world should be hailed and appreciated.

Therefore it is of paramount importance for all persons in the leadership of this country to stop antagonizing the Buganda land system. Buganda might be silent today but that does not render them weak or inactive. There is a kiganda saying “togayanga kyezinze” literally meaning don’t under estimate the power of someone who looks weak and whose background and capacities you are not conversant with. Let the land matters in Buganda be handled with caution or else the country will be plunged into chaos. There is nothing better than living in peace and comfort but there is everything bad distorting it and creating misery for people.

Buganda is a solid institution, has a culture, has systems and values, has a long history of being an organized institution and is welcoming to all. It is pointless to antagonize it. When a normal nose is over pressed or squeezed, the blood vessels burst and blood forcefully gushes out. When you press someone against the wall, naturally one fights to get free. Avoid pressing Buganda against the wall!

Anyone advocating for a change in Bugandas land system, be advised to work through and with the genuine Buganda systems and institutions. Respect and value Bugandas systems like it is done in other parts of the country. Let it not be forgotten that land conflicts can lead to turbulence.


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